Have you ever asked yourself, do I need a sway bar for my travel trailer? Not to worry, many first-time RV owners ask this question a lot. Seasoned rovers cite many reasons for installing this RV suspension add-on. As you explore the many joys of RVing, you will see what they mean.
For now, let us focus on answering this question. Hopefully, you will have a more comprehensive understanding of the importance of installing a sway bar in your travel trailer.
Table of Contents
- Do I Need a Sway Bar for My Camper or Travel Trailer
- What Is a Sway Bar for Travel Trailers
- How Does It Work
- What Causes My Travel Trailer to Sway
- Can I Prevent My Travel Trailer from Swaying
Do I Need a Sway Bar for My Camper or Travel Trailer
Are sway bars necessary? I believe they are. Even if you observe preventive measures, there is always the risk of unknown forces causing your travel trailer to roll. Having a stabilizer bar under your travel trailer’s chassis can minimize the threat of sway and improve road safety.
Not only will it stabilize your travel trailer on the road as you enjoy the scene. It also makes roving less stressful and more enjoyable. After all, RVing is all about a relaxing driving experience.
What Is a Sway Bar for Travel Trailers
A sway bar for travel trailer is an aftermarket accessory that RV owners install in their travel trailer’s suspension to improve its handling characteristics. The add-on is an extended steel bar with a U-shaped center section to accommodate the travel trailer’s under-chassis components.
You connect one end to one of the travel trailer’s wheels and the opposite end to the other wheel. Its principal purpose is to control body roll, ensuring better travel trailer stability on the road.
We can think of it as an essential RV suspension component for preventing your trailer and tow vehicle from rolling on its side when turning.
How Does It Work
Sway bars work by controlling wheel suspension action, keeping the travel trailer’s wheels in constant contact with the road surface.
When you turn your vehicle, it shifts its weight to one side, producing a phenomenon we call sway or body roll. Turning your travel trailer to the right will move its load to the left and vice versa.
The shifting weight also creates changes in the travel trailer’s suspension. In our example, a right turn will shift the vehicle’s mass to the left, compressing the left suspension system. On the other hand, the lighter left side will extend its suspension and possibly lift the wheel off the road.
Try to recall that time when you were navigating a bend at considerable speed. You could feel your body being pushed to one side (the outer or opposite side of your turn). Your travel trailer has the same phenomenon.
The sway bar counters your travel trailer’s suspension action. When you turn right, the sway bar prevents the left suspension from extending too much. It keeps the left wheel in contact with the road. The same is true with the right wheel and suspension when you turn your travel trailer to the left.
What Causes My Travel Trailer to Sway
Besides turning, your travel trailer can also sway because of other reasons. For example, unequal load distribution can make one of the travel trailer’s sides heavier than the other, compressing that side’s suspension.
The wind is another factor that can make your travel trailer sway. Unfortunately, sudden gusts are unpredictable. For instance, drafts from passing buses, large trucks, and semis can create a whiplash effect on your travel trailer.
Driving on curvy and bumpy roads can also produce sway. Any uneven terrain can shift one side of the trailer and compress that side’s suspension while lifting the other.
Exceeding your travel trailer’s weight limits can also cause it to sway on the road. A heavy load puts a strain on the tow vehicle’s frame and suspension, increasing the risk of travel trailer rolling.
Can I Prevent My Travel Trailer from Swaying
A camper stabilizer bar or sway bar can prevent your travel trailer from swaying. However, it is not the only way. You can also observe the following measures to avoid road accidents due to excessive vehicle body roll or sway.
Avoid Driving in Bad Weather
Bad weather is always a contraindication to any travel, whether driving a car, towing a travel trailer, piloting a plane, or skippering a boat. Snow and rain can make the road slippery, causing the wheels to lose traction and shift the vehicle’s weight.
Strong winds can also hit your travel trailer’s side, lifting that flank’s suspension and compressing the other.
It would be best to check the weather reports for your destination and along the route. Always give yourself sufficient time to arrive at your target location before the weather turns ugly. If you think a storm or inclement weather will hamper your travel, you might want to forego the drive.
Observe Your Travel Trailer’s Load Capacity
All vehicles have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) that describes their overall safe weight, including everything inside the travel trailer, its occupants, fuel, and accessories.
Authorities require vehicle manufacturers to define their products’ GVWR to guide owners in observing safe vehicle weight.
For example, a 12,700-pound 5th wheel camper trailer can have a GVWR of 17,000 to 20,000 pounds. However, its maximum load capacity is only 6,000 pounds.
Exceeding your travel trailer’s safe weight limits can stress the suspension while making the vehicle more challenging to control.
Distribute Your Travel Trailer’s Load Properly
It is also essential to balance the weight between the travel trailer’s front and rear sections. It would be best to distribute the load so that 60% of it is on the trailer’s forward section. To be specific, 15% of the travel trailer’s weight must rest on the hitch.
If the travel trailer’s rear section is heavier than the front, it can lift the tow vehicle’s rear wheels and lose traction. It will be uncontrollable and make swaying more likely to occur.
Go Easy on the Gas and Steering Wheel
Driving at a safe speed not only prevents travel trailer sway. It can also improve your tow vehicle’s fuel economy and make your roving more fun. You can correct your trailer’s roll easily and quickly if you travel at 50 to 60 miles per hour.
Additionally, it would be best to minimize sudden steering wheel movements. One quick turn can trigger a chain of events that lead to swaying.
Install a Weight Distribution Hitch Unit
While observing proper load distribution can help prevent sway, you can further reduce the risk by installing a weight-distribution hitch unit.
This system ensures more accurate weight distribution between the tow vehicle and the travel trailer, preventing needless rolling.
You do not need to ask yourself, do I need a sway bar for my travel trailer? You know you do. While you can observe measures that lower the risk of travel trailer roll, you will feel more at ease with a stabilizer bar installed between your trailer’s wheels.
Installing a sway bar helps keep your travel trailer wheels in contact with the road surface at all times. It also smoothens the ride, making you feel like traveling in a luxury coach. If you want a more comfortable and safer ride, I recommend getting the best possible sway bar for your travel trailer today.
I am Stephen Ryan, content director for RV Web. After seven years of working as an interior decorator, I am confident in turning my clients’ dream houses into reality. I find it rewarding to help others make the best of their space and resources.